Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Adventures in Teapottery

by Patty Sheppard

"Adventures in Teapottery," Jim Ibur, ceramics
Through December 14, 2007
St. Louis Community College at Forest Park Art Annex Gallery

Gallery view: "Adventures in Teapottery," Jim Ibur, ceramics. Photograph by Patty Sheppard.

I have long admired and been inspired by Jim Ibur’s sculptural ceramic work and was again rewarded when I viewed his current exhibit, "Adventures in Teapottery." As I entered the new Annex Gallery at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park I was greeted with uniquely interpreted functional and sculptural teapot forms, all richly textured.

The exhibit evokes a feeling of time, and each piece seems to have a visual history. I was drawn to a regal King’s T-Pot with rich, stippled texture and teal blue highlights, which sits nestled atop a stony matte throne of a deeper texture. It reminds me of a once grand and elaborate era, now softened by time. This more intimate piece balances the larger forms in the exhibit with its precisely controlled details and geometric form.

Another teapot on the pedestal stands with similar form but has a creamy smooth glaze, which tempers the strong textures under subtlety. A highly textured blue-green Terrapin teapot appears to have been buried beneath the sea for ages and developed encrustations of sea form fossils and small sea turtles. This is one of my favorites.

Jim Ibur, King's T-Pot, 2007, 7.5"x5.5"x4.5", ceramic; King's T-Pot #2, 2007, 6"x5"x5", ceramic. Photograph by Patty Sheppard.

Several deconstructed spiny, sliced, and weathered teapots unraveled their forms against the wall in relief. One of these wall plates revealed a pair of small shiny teapots in the center of a highly textured vignette like gems sparkling through the rubble. Its shard-like marks, fossils and crusty surfaces are reminiscent of archaeological finds.

Body forms are often associated with ceramic vessels: (labels such as foot, lip, belly, shoulder, etc often name parts of the vessel). The curvilinear body-like forms of Body…Pagoda, Coral and Body…Hut are both playful and sensual. These have subtle color with combinations of smooth and rugged surfaces, which evoke the sense of touch and explore the age-old dialogue of body forms as art inspiration. Even though they are on pedestals in a gallery it is hard to remember “not to touch the art” as their forms seem so tactile.

Jim Ibur, Stack #1, 2007, 9.5"x10"x6", ceramic; Stack #2, 2007, 10.5"x5.5"x5", ceramic; Stack #3, 2007, 12.25"x7"x6", ceramic. Photograph by Patty Sheppard.

When I asked Jim what his starting point was when forming pieces for the exhibit, he said that he began working with groupings of three forms at a time. This is evident in the larger group of three sharing a sort of altar, which creates a triptych of ceremonial looking sculptural teapots. Their dark silhouettes create impelling negative spaces formed by their round double bellies, leg and elbow-like appendages and crisp spouts and knobs. The entire exhibit of teapots has a cohesive feel because it explores several different ideas and forms with enough similar surfaces to tie them together.

I feel drawn to this created environment of time, body/dwelling and functional shapes. Their rich surfaces and expressive gestures are tempered by areas of controlled forms. Jim Ibur once again displays his ability to challenge himself both sculpturally and conceptually within the clay medium with a thought-provoking and visually enticing statement. Don’t miss this show!


"Adventures in Teapottery," remains on view through December 14, 2007. St. Louis Community College at Forest Park Art Annex Gallery is located in the Art Annex Building, 5435 Highland Park Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110. 314/533-0125. Free & open to the public Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-3 p.m.


Patricia Sheppard is an adjunct Art Instructor at St. Louis Community College Meramec. Some of her work can be seen at Best of Missouri Hands and www.63119art.com. “Patty Sheppard: Scratchboard and Ceramics,” a solo exhibition of her recent work, will be presented at The Ethical Society of Saint Louis January 4—February 12, 2008.